The ocean is one of the principal reservoirs of CO2, a greenhouse gas, and therefore plays a crucial role in regulating Earth's climate. Currently, the ocean sequesters about a third of anthropogenic CO2 emissions, mitigating the human impact on climate. At the same time, the deeper ocean represents the largest carbon pool in the Earth System and processes that describe the transfer of carbon from the surface of the ocean to depth are intimately linked to the effectiveness of carbon sequestration.The ocean biological pump (OBP), which involves several biogeochemical processes, is a major pathway for transfer of carbon from the surface mixed layer into the ocean interior. About 75 of the carbon vertical gradient is due to the carbon pump with only 25 attributed to the solubility pump. However, the relative importance and role of the two pumps is poorly constrained. OBP is further divided to the organic carbon pump (soft tissue pump) and the carbonate pump, with the former exporting about 10 times more carbon than the latter through processes like remineralization.Major uncertainties about OBP, and hence in the carbon uptake and sequestration, stem from uncertainties in processes involved in OBP such as particulate organicinorganic carbon sinkingsettling, remineralization, microbial degradation of DOC and uptakegrowth rate changes of the ocean biology. The deep ocean is a major sink of atmospheric CO2 in scales of hundreds to thousands of years, but how the export efficiency (i.e. the fraction of total carbon fixation at the surface that is transported at depth) is affected by climate change remains largely undetermined. These processes affect the ocean chemistry (alkalinity, pH, DIC, particulate and dissolved organic carbon) as well as the ecology (biodiversity, functional groups and their interactions) in the ocean. It is important to have a rigorous, quantitative understanding of the uncertainties involved in the observational measurements, the models and the projections of future changes.
Environment Pollution; Oceanography
IMBER Update, IMBER Newsletter; 24; 10-13